Starts in the Heart

God has to pick a king for his people. What is the most important quality that He looks for?



Morning.  David Sorn.  Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.

How important are the externals?  Looks?  What you see on the outside?

Do they matter when it comes to dating, hiring decisions, how people treat you?

Most studies say that, unfortunately, we’re biased towards good looks.

Take this for example:

Last year, comedy writer Ali Reed created a fake profile on the dating site “OK Cupid”  

Then she loaded her profile with despicable traits, including:

-Enjoys kicking cups out of the hands of homeless people

-My parents think I'm in law school so they pay all my bills

–You should message me if you’re rich.

But for the online photo, Reed used the real photo of a friend who happened to be a professional model.

She said that within 24 hours, she got 150 messages from men.

In 2 or 3 weeks, she had almost 1,000 men message her.

She said it was comically and tragically sad because it was close to 10 times more than the number of messages she got on her own very real profile.  

Our culture loves the externals.  

Keep that in mind this morning as we transition back into a series we’ve been doing off and on this year, called Monarchy.

It’s really a perfect transition for us as you could almost fit this message into our Gilded Age series that we recently concluded.  

Our Monarchy series is a verse-by-verse or chapter by chapter look at the book of 1 Samuel in the Bible.

We’ve spent 13 weeks going through 1 Samuel so far this year.

And we’ve called this series “Monarchy” because Monarchy means:  1 ruler.  1 King. 

And this is perhaps THE great theme of 1 Samuel:  That there is 1 King…and it’s God.

In the first 15 chapters of 1 Samuel we’ve seen God send his people a great leader in Samuel…but the people decide to clamor for a King.

So God gives them what they want…a tall and manly man named Saul.

But Saul turns out to be quite lacking as king, and God tells him that he will be choosing a different king…

And that’s where we left off back in August.

If you’re new to Renovation since then, as many of you are, this is really the halfway turning point in the book.

1 Samuel is going to turn its focus to a new central figure…David, and that starts this morning in chapter 16. 

Let’s take a look.

(1 Samuel 16:1-13) – NIV

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” 2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” 4 Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?” 5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

So Samuel shows up at Bethlehem…the exact same town that 1,000 years later Mary & Joseph would arrive to give birth to Jesus.

And by the way, why did they go to Bethlehem to have Jesus on that first Christmas?

It’s because they were there for a census (a census where people had to register in the place of their family lineage)

And Jesus…is a direct descendent of none other than this boy David we just read about

David comes from a great family line himself.

His great-grandparents and Jesse’s grandparents are Boaz and Ruth (whom one of the books of the bible is about)

So what’s happening in this story? 

Beyond the obvious of Samuel showing up to anoint a new future king for Israel?

God tells Samuel that the future king is going to be one of Jesse’s sons, so Jesse lines up 7 of his 8 sons for Samuel to see.

Apparently, Jesse thought the idea of Samuel picking young David for such an important task was ridiculous, so he didn’t even invite him to come with to the sacrifice. 

Scholars think David is probably somewhere between 10 and 15 at the time…and he’s simply out tending the sheep…a servant’s job really.

There could be something else the author is telling us here too:

The Hebrew number for completeness is 7.

David is the 8th child…the forgotten one.

My kid’s children’s Bible has this story.

It has the 7 sons on one page and David’s on the next page.

We go through and ask, “Is this the king??”  “NO!”

But Livi always thinks the youngest of the 7 is the King!

“YES!  That’s Him!”

But it’s not. 

David is the forgotten child

But see, God looks at things completely differently than we do, and He’s going to do it His way now. 

When Saul was proclaimed King, God gave the Israelites what they wanted.

Saul was “the people’s choice”

The people kept saying they wanted someone to “fight their battles for them”

And Saul was their fierce warrior…a handsome man that was a head taller than everyone else.

But it didn’t work out.

The external, outward appearances weren’t enough.

And now God is saying, “Enough with the people’s choice”

Let me show you what really matters…not the external appearance…but the internal…the heart! 

Here’s the central verse of our passage

(1 Samuel 16:7) – NIV

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  

But most of the time, we’re terrible at this.

We prefer to simplistically look at the outside…the gilded layer.

It’s easier, simpler, and quicker that way




But appearance isn’t everything.

The great author Malcolm Gladwell (who is a recent convert to Christianity believe it or not), tells of the following in his book “Blink”

A number of years ago, the classical music world radically changed how they auditioned new musicians for a place in the symphony. 

Though they believed their first impressions of listening to someone play an instrument were completely unbiased, they were quickly disproved once screens were erected between the judges and the individuals who were auditioning.

In the past 40 years, with the screens in place, the number of women in the top U. S. orchestra has increased fivefold.

Instrumentalists who had previously been eliminated from consideration were now accepted when factors like outward appearance and unconscious prejudice were removed, and only pure ability was considered.

In his book, Gladwell shares the story of a female instrumentalist whom previously had been thought of as only a “backup” by the judges because of course “women could not play the French Horn as well as men” J

And yet, when they used the screen, and couldn’t see who it was, they thought, “This man is clearly one of the best we’ve ever heard!”

Whoops, it was a woman J

Even when we start to make steps in the right direction, we tend to just regress to our old ways of just looking at the externals.

Think of the TV show “The Voice”

Great premise, right?  Similar to what we just talked about…

4 famous musicians have their backs turned to auditioners and choose which contestants to work with based solely on their voice.

We love it because we know life should be about more than just the external.

But beyond the few opening episodes, what’s the rest of the show about?

“Make sure you really act this song out…people are watching”

“You need to dress better and look beautiful when you sing”

We just regress to our same old patterns.

Our biases run deep.

We can’t escape this one.

We’re particularly hard on women.

If you’re a female, and you want to work in media on TV, you’ve got to be pretty.

Not so if you’re a man…they’re ugly old men everywhere on TV J

We, often subconsciously, fall for externals as we’re meeting a new person at work (immediately you’ve already judged them) 

Samuel did this! 

He met Jesse’s oldest son, and he got out his button from Staples and said, “Well that was easy!  Here he is!”

But turns out…the oldest and tallest wasn’t the King!

And we don’t struggle with this only in the “looks department”

We judge by credentials…or lack of them

We say, “That person graduated from here, they must be ___”

“This person never went to college, they must be ____”

I mean, step back from this passage for a moment…take a bird’s eye view.

What’s happening?

God is giving them a new king.

He’s surveyed the land and picked one out.

And how did he choose?

He needs somebody who can handle probably the hardest job on earth…leading his stiff-necked people…

So God has to decide…what’s the most important quality a leader has to have if he’s going to positively impact the Kingdom?

Is it height?

Is it amazing hair?

It is a bubbly personality?

Is it a great resume?

Is it their ability to intimidate people?

No, no, no, no, and a big no.

What is it???  It’s the heart.   

The single greatest indicator of future Godliness and impact is the condition of your heart.

Do you believe that?

Because that’s the test God is using.




You know what’s funny?

Deep down within us…we know this.

We rarely live like we know the importance of developing our hearts.

Instead we spend all of our time working on our appearance and our careers

But deep down, we know it’s important. 

Let me show you what I mean.

Many of our greatest stories reveal what we really, deep down, believe to be true

See, our world is filled with stories where the apparent hero (from an external perspective)…the golden boy if you will…fails and the unlikely hero emerges.

I could go on and on and show you where this is true: 

Aren’t most dramas involving adolescents are just the same old story of girl leaves Football captain for the nerdy boy with the good heart 

Or, let me prove this theory to you with some of the highest grossing films of all time:

Avatar:  The main character is a paraplegic who wasn’t expected to do much of anything, but his HEART for the native people changed everything…

Harry Potter:  The hero is not the powerful one or the beautiful one but the nerdy little boy with glasses and a good heart

Lord of the Rings:  The hero is not the wizard or a giant or even the King with the flowing hair, but the little hobbit with the big ugly feet…who…has a great heart!

See, we KNOW this…

We know that the greatest indicator of success in leadership…the greatest indicator of future impact…is actually a great heart. 

God knows this.

It’s why he picks a tweener shepherd boy that even his own family forgot about.

The externals aren’t all that important.  

I mean, let me ask you: “Where do you want to make an impact on this world?  Or for Christ?”

Is it through your work?

Is it through raising your kids?

Is it through some spiritual ministry or work you’re doing?

Whatever you want…if you want to see God move through you…the most important thing you can do is to develop your heart.

The best way to increase God’s work THROUGH you, is to let God work IN you. 

We can’t escape God’s monumental decision here.

He picks David because of his heart.

The Bible calls the heart the “wellspring of life” in Proverbs 4

Or look at Proverbs 27

(Proverbs 27:19) – NIV 

 As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

Your spiritual heart is the central organ that impacts your whole life just as your physical heart impacts your biological life

It all starts in the heart

So, what’s the definition of a good heart then?

The Book of Acts defines it for us when it talks about David

(Acts 13:22) – NIV

22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

A good heart is one that seeks first after God’s heart…God’s will…and not their own gain.  

That’s why the most important trait in a leader is a good heart.

What does a king really need?

IN Saul, they got a really tall and angry guy who was good with a sword.

It paid off for a few years, and then corruption set in because it’s the heart (not the hand) that ultimately sets our course.

A king doesn’t need a good sword…he needs a good heart.

This is a good rule of thumb for us to think through in assessing people (leaders in particular)

If you want long-term success on your management team, from your pastors, from your politicians, from leaders…they’ll need (not only external qualities), but for long-term success, they’ll need a good heart.

And listen, because the condition of your heart (and its ability to submit and trust in God) is paramount to your future too…it’s critical that you’re serious about developing it

I’ll say this again…whatever it is your seeking (raising a good family…impact at work…evangelistic impact…maybe all of those things), the development of your heart is the most important indicator of future impact.  

We see this truth in David’s life. 

He had a good heart because it was being developed…even as a young boy.

Look at the Hebrew scholar, Robert Alter’s take on King David’s life:

“David is a kind of male Cinderella, left to the domestic chores instead of being invited to the party.  But the tending of his flocks to which he had been banished will give him exactly what he needs both in the Goliath battle and later to his lead his people.” – Robert Alter

What an amazing quote.

See, as we get further along in 1 Samuel, you’re going to see the amazing successes of David

But first, we need to see the catalyst for all of those successes.

It’s his heart.

And deeper yet…it was the shaping of his heart.

While everyone else was getting external glory for their age, or birth order, or successes, David was out by himself tending the sheep.

Not exactly a glorious job.

Think of it this way:  Back in the middle ages, in the days of Kings and princes, how many Kings do you think made their sons become a shepherd so they could prepare to be King?

And yet, that’s exactly what God did to prepare HIS King

Because God knows…It all starts with the growing of your heart.

In “tending the sheep,” David learned to be faithful and obedient, and to listen to his father.

In “tending the sheep,” David learned that he wasn’t “above” a menial task, but he learned what it meant to be a servant

Do you see how his HEART is being shaped?? (these are all INTERNAL things)

In “tending the sheep,” David had plenty of time to think and spend time with God while out in His creation.    

In “tending the sheep,” David learned what it meant to be a shepherd…to protect, love, and care.

All throughout Scripture God absolutely LOVES to take the world’s order of things, and flip it on its head.

And so for his King, God doesn’t take a prince from the palace or a mighty warrior from the battlefield, but a young shepherd boy… a boy with an incredible heart.

And it’s the shaping of that heart…out in those fields…that would shape an entire nation.

In fact, the Bible explicitly makes this connection

(Psalm 78:70-72) – NIV

He chose David his servant
    and took him from the sheep pens;
71 from tending the sheep he brought him
    to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,
    of Israel his inheritance.
72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
    with skillful hands he led them.

Hear me on this:

Just because you haven’t had the life the world says you were supposed to have, doesn’t mean that God hasn’t been training you for something else.  

God loves to choose unlikely people with unlikely stories to advance his Kingdom.

And so often, so many of those paths that we thought would lead nowhere are actually just paths God had to lead us on to shape our hearts first.

Do you think David ever thought his shepherding was the next step to Kingship?!?  




So trust that God could be shaping your heart even in the times that aren’t very glamorous to the rest of the world.

For example: Changing diapers and cleaning up spit up is far from glamorous, but I guarantee you it’s probably shaping your heart more than almost anything else you’ve done.

So look for those places in your life.  

When something is mundane, ask, “How can I let this grow me as a person?”

And seek out places where you can develop and grow your heart.  

If indeed the growth of your heart (a heart that puts God’s will first) is the most critical thing in your life to develop…how are you developing that heart?

All of your external successes and tools won’t mean anything if you don’t have the right heart to steer them.

It’s like having a car with with all the greatest add-on’s, features, and accessories, but having an engine that’s going to break down at any moment

Seek God every day…

If you’re not taking at minimum 5-10 minutes a day to sit down and open your Bible and talk with God…make that a priority today.

Pick a time in your day.

Take out an episode of Netflix…a time of checking socil media.

And clear out space for God to develop your heart.

And be serious about rooting out sin from your heart.

Put actual work into dealing with some of the perpetual issues so many of us have (resentment, anger, lust), you name it

What I want you to see is that the development of your heart is the most important task for your life

The best way to increase God’s work THROUGH you, is to let God work IN you. 

Are you spending time letting God work IN you?  On your heart? 

And for those of you that are parents…

Think about this principle in raising your children

Maybe it’s easier to think of this principle through the development of someone besides ourselves. 

If the development of their heart is the most important indicator of their future Godliness and impact…what are you doing to develop their heart??

Hear me very clearly on this:

The most important thing for your kids is that they love Jesus.

Not that they excel at their sport…or in their looks…or EVEN in their education.

Your #1 job as a parent is to create an environment where your kid can fall in love with God and learn to serve Him.

Because that’s the engine (the heart) that will drive the rest of their life!

We have a lot of young parents here…let me ask you a question:  

Are you going to be happy if your child achieves all of your external dreams for them?

They go to Harvard…play basketball there too…get hired on wall Street, but…. then….

Because they never developed a heart that put God first…they walk away from God…to be separated from you and Him for eternity?  

What do you actually really want for your children?

You want their engine to be right…their heart…

This is your #1 job as a parent:  Help your kids fall in love with God.

Like David, it will be the catalyst for everything else that happens in life.

So foster an environment where this can happen

Is this happening in your house? 

Does your schedule reflect this?

Does church come first?  Youth Group?

Time to pray together?  Read the Bible?  Serve others?

Or is God just 5th or 6th on the list of priorities for your child, and when your schedule is free, your family will fit Him in? 

The most important thing for your child, is cultivating a heart that loves God. 

Do you parent that way? 

And I use that as an example, even if you don’t have kids, or your kids are grown, because it’s easier to see…in hindsight…that it’s the ENGINE that matters.

That it all starts in the heart.

So guard your heart…develop it…and let God work in you, so He can work through you.

Let’s pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.

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